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Professor Traci Lamar Wins Outstanding Teacher Awards

Traci Lamar reviews an embroidery sample from Leeman Smith

By Sarah Stone

Any student or fellow faculty member would tell you that Professor Traci Lamar is an outstanding teacher, so it only makes sense that she has won two such awards for the 2021-2022 academic year. Both the university and NC State’s Alumni Association have presented her with their respective Outstanding Teacher awards.

Dr. Lamar decided to enter academia shortly after she began working for a garment company. 

“I was about three years in, and it just sort of hit me one day that I spent half my afternoon watching the clock,” she remembers. “And it was sort of a wake up call for me.”

In graduate school, Lamar figured out what did keep her from watching the clock – time with students. 

“I think it’s always been teaching that drew me to the faculty role,” Lamar says. “I enjoyed the other aspects of it, but it’s always that interaction with students, and I hope that I’m making positive impacts in their lives and doing things that will make their lives better.”

A short conversation with the two students who wrote her letters of recommendation for the award makes it clear that she is accomplishing exactly that. For both Colby Hopper and Uikyung Jung, it’s Lamar’s balance of challenging feedback and unending support that makes her stand out as a faculty member. 

“She was available whenever I needed guidance, and her compassionate approach to constructive criticism pushed me to examine my design choices to the fullest extent,” master’s student Colby Hopper remembers of her FTD Emerging Designers collection. “Her advice was pivotal in my efforts to bring my textile collection to fruition.” 

Jung, now a Ph.D. student, was an advisee and master’s student of Lamar’s. She echoes that while Lamar held her and her classmates to high standards, “in terms of our imagination or creativity I was very motivated to explore my design without fear.”

Lamar has also guided students to success outside of the classroom through her feedback, helping a number of students place in industry competitions held by the International Textile Alliance and Cotton Incorporated among others. 

While it’s the interactions with students that drive her, Lamar says some of the work she’s most proud of are the ways she’s influenced and contributed to both the curriculum of the textile design program and the culture of work within the textile design faculty. 

“Dr. Lamar is leading our department, university and our discipline in exciting and new teaching directions,” Associate Professor Lisa Chapman says.

Assistant Professor Kate Nartker, who co-teaches a course with Lamar, says the experience has had a large influence on how she develops her lesson plans and teaches complex subjects. 

“I am impressed with her dedication to students and her ability to introduce complex computer-aided design programs while simultaneously supporting students’ creative visions,” Nartker says. “She manages to balance technical demonstrations with critical feedback and guidance so students are able to navigate new new techniques while also developing their own visual vocabularies.” 

Not only is Lamar influencing her fellow faculty members, she’s also having an impact on the next generation of educators. Jung cites her time with Lamar as the reason she has decided to pursue a faculty position after earning her Ph.D. 

“She has been arguably the most influential mentor I encountered during my time at NC State,” she says. 

With this award, Lamar joins the Academy of Outstanding Teachers at NC State for the rest of her time as a faculty member. She also becomes eligible for the Board of Governors Award for Excellence in Teaching and the Alumni Distinguished Undergraduate Professor Award.